Knowledge

Chapter 3

"You're late."
"I am so sorry, Heiwajima-san. There's no such thing as a free day to an informant. Saturdays included."

Shizuo shrugged and walked back into his apartment, leaving Izaya to follow him. It had been Izaya's idea to have this meeting in Shizuo's apartment. It was a risky decision, shifting to foreign territory made him more vulnerable but Izaya wanted to study Shizuo in his habitat. Also, loath to admit as he was, Izaya did not want Shizuo to gain extra info from his home. Learning and adjusting were qualities that Izaya had honed through cleverly absorbed experience. New information demanded new approaches: if Heiwajima Shizuo was less of a dimwit than Izaya had believed, then he would take this into account.

"You can walk uninvited into people's homes, huh. Unless giving you permission over the phone counted."

Izaya looked around. A one room apartment. Dingy as was to be expected. And small. But tidy. No piles of garbage bags.

"Heh, I'm not a vampire."

"Not a blood-sucking one, at least."

"Whatever do you mean?"

"You figure it out."

Shizuo stood with his arms folded. He did not offer Izaya a seat and in his vest and shirt looked about to throw him out. Izaya shrugged, almost nervously.

"Can I have something to drink?"

"Go right ahead."

Izaya believed that fridges revealed a lot about their owners. Shizuo's was mostly empty. No alcohol which surprised Izaya. He picked a can of soda and after a few sips under Shizuo's unfaltering gaze that lasted a small eternity, felt rather awkward.

"Can I sit down or something?"

"Why do you have to ask, can't you do whatever you want?"

Izaya forced a smile.

"I try to accommodate my employers' wishes as much as possible and this is your house after all."

"Do you visit them in their homes very often?"

Izaya suspected a hidden intent to this question. The truth would compromise him by letting show how exceptional this assignment was. But lying, Izaya has learnt at his expense, was dangerous.

"Job-related. I won't answer."

Shizuo nodded.

"Have you ever killed someone?"

07

Izaya was caught off guard but he recovered without batting an eyelash.

"Oh? Trying to get me to make a confession? I don't suppose there are bugs conveniently hidden?"

Shizuo opened the single small window outside of which was the corroded landing of the fire escape ladder.

"Roof's this way."

To Izaya's absolute dismay Shizuo proceed to strip the vest and shirt, carefully folding them away into a wall inbuilt closet.

"What are you doing?"

"Quieting your paranoia. No bugs as you can see."

Izaya chuckled dryly. For a split second a stab of panic overrode his reason. He tried not to stare too much at Shizuo's impressive physique. Impressively imposing. Bare-chested Shizuo was more of a tangible threat.

"Do lead the way, Heiwajima-san."

Shizuo stepped on the landing. His bulky frame blocked the fading light. Izaya was late on purpose, fashionably so in fact, going out of his usual professional conduct to make a point. So the sun was already rusting the sky with red tendrils. As he climbed he had the feeling of swimming upwards through breathable blood. Shizuo's broad back framed Izaya's horizon. He wondered what would happen if he did something crazy. Like jumping on Shizuo to go for a piggyback ride. Izaya giggled under his breath at the thought.

The city spread its net of agitated concrete, clearer with each step. It became a grid, a blue print for human interaction. No matter how many times he saw it the spectacle never failed to captivate him. Sundown trickled down unto the neon sprinkled depths. Streets were veins, individuals akin to mere cells carried on a relentless flow. And Orihara Izaya stood above it all. He almost lost himself in exhilarant contemplation but all too soon he arrived at the roof and had to acknowledge Shizuo.

"So, have you or not? Killed someone, that is."

Izaya made a full tour of the new premises. The wind was always stronger in high places and he enjoyed it immensely.

"Remember that girl that jumped off the Sunshine last week? I gave her a little push. Every now and then I get bored. Tokyo is so overcrowded that I am doing the city a service."

He waved his hand around as he spoke, carefree and without breaking eye contact, his smile as easy going as his entire attitude. Shizuo lighted a cigarette and smoked. A fraction of silence and smoke.

"You're lying."

Izaya held on to his by now fraying smile.

"Your psychic powers again? How irrational."

"Not half as much as pushing people off skyscrapers. Which you didn't do anyway."

Izaya stretched to unwind a growing tension and at the same time casting the image that he was entirely at ease. Nonchalance was the key.

"I could provide evidence to prove it but I see no need to do it. Since you know through magic. Can't argue with such a reliable epistemology."

"You're this snarky with all your employers or just on those who call you on your bullshit?"

A stunned gasp. It took Izaya half a second to close his mouth. He had heard many an insult but never so calmly delivered.

"Work-related."

"Got it. Why did you lie?"

Izaya's hands turned into fists. He shoved them in his pockets.

"I killed her. I have no idea what you're going on about."

Shizuo extended an arm, palm upwards.

"Punch my hand. Get it out of your system."

It was with an effort that Izaya smiled, thinly.

"Get what out my system, exactly?"

"I know anger when I see it and you're real mad."

Izaya chuckled. It sounded hollow even to his ears.

"Believe what you want, then. It's all the same to me."

"Why don't you try the truth."

"Or else what? You'll beat it out of me?"

Shizuo rubbed his chin, thoughtfully, and puffed some smoke. Izaya was reminded anew of how much he despised the cancerous stench of tobacco. Gusts of wind could not seem to wipe it away entirely.

"You pretty much admitted that you lied. Being angry sucks, huh?"

Izaya wondered if he could see a glimmer of a smile in Shizuo's eyes. Izaya clapped, slowly. For emphasis.

"Bravo, Heiwajima-san. I didn't push her. I didn't have to. I merely spoke to her. So much for 'sticks and stones'. Words have a lot of power."

"That's not exactly murder."

Shizuo accepted the explanation without contesting.

"True. But anyone can commit murder. It's clear cut and uninteresting."

Izaya tried to turn his disadvantage into a win. If it came to that he could play the card of the genius that is beyond contradiction.

"I guess. But is it really all that amazing? I mean, not even you can talk a happy person into jumping to their death so I don't really see what the big deal is."

"You're the one who brought it up anyway. Since I am not allowed to pick a subject."

"But you were gloating."

"So what. We all get our kicks where we can. If you've got a problem with mine, Heiwajima-san, then I cannot help you with that."

Izaya waited with baited breath for the onslaught of rage that was sure to follow.

"I just think it's kinda petty."

"And I suppose this is when I tell you all about my grand plan."

"So you are planning something."

Izaya took half a step back. Just as the tension was becoming unbearable a bubbly ringtone cut into the silence. Izaya recognized it immediately.

"Please excuse me. Hello, Masaomi-kun. No, I'm not doing anything important. Did he now. That's troublesome. Solve it. 'How'? Why, you ought to know that already. And aren't we polite, 'Orihara-san' huh. Whatever happened to 'that Izaya bastard'? Heh, this double-faced nature of yours may be the end of you. And if it isn't then something else will. Bye bye."

Here was Izaya's much needed mood boost. Night was descending.

"You leaving?"

"I've been most obliging as it is."

Izaya sauntered to the ladder. Buoyed up and in control. But still very much aware of his surroundings. He took only a brief look at the sparkling spectacle of so many lights before starting down the rungs. From the corner of his eyes he sensed the motion of a large mass known as Heiwajima Shizuo. Instinct kicked in with a shot of adrenaline. Izaya leapt so as to put as much distance between himself and the aggressor as possible but it was dark in the rooftop. Too dark.

His stumbling on a pile of rubbish that tumbled was hardly a mishap for a parkour adept but coupled the momentum of fleeing from Shizuo capsized Izaya's balance. He tried to pull back but gravity cancelled all efforts. Izaya fell forward. The abyss was littered with stars. His mind joined the forward motion, anticipating with gruesome detail the bloody splatter his body would leave on the pavement below.

His heartbeat was inside and outside in the cold air. Izaya forced his eyes open. The stars skid downwards in a dizzying arch, vertigo clutched at him- and then suddenly stopped. Izaya swung in the wind but did not fall. His cell phone slid from a pocket and fell, fell, fell, crashing into so many pieces of plastic and circuitry. Izaya did not dare breathe.

"It's not the same, seeing people jump and being close to plunging to your death. You sure are into, what do you call it…oh yeah, 'observing' but you stop at that."

Izaya almost told Shizuo to let go of him. Not because he had any desire to time but because it was instinctive to finding himself in the clutches of a hostile brute. Quite literally. Shizuo held him with just a hand and calmly smoked as if Izaya's ordeal was a mere trifle.

"Heiwajima-san? I would very much appreciate it if you pulled me in."

"Maybe I should take up your hobby of dropping people."

Izaya had to steel himself. Gusts of wind caused him to sway dangerously and he was close to vomiting. And that was the least of his concerns.

"I did not drop anyone. Ever. They jumped because they wanted to jump. You're right, I did not have to do much convincing."

"I got to hand it to you, I thought you'd be shitting your pants by now."

Izaya managed a smile.

"If you let me fall it will be murder pure and simple. Can you live with that? Cold-blooded murder?"

"Probably."

Izaya was running out of arguments. He could not afford to die here. Begging was a desperate tactic but the only one available. Izaya could not even take a deep breath lest it disturbed his precarious equilibrium. He raced through his mind for the emotional appeal most likely to succeed and settled on how much his sisters would miss him. All bets were off anyway. But before he had a chance of sketching a picture of teary eyed Kururi and Mairu being ever so sad, he was landing on the roof top. Shizuo dropped him unceremoniously. Izaya scrapped his knees and realized that he was shaking uncontrollably. Now that the threat of annihilation was gone, pent up stress took hold of him. Izaya stared at the ground on which he huddled and tried to breathe in and out without hyperventilating. He reached for his switchblade and finally closed his eyes. Slowly he counted to ten. Then staggered to his feet. Jittery laughter.

"You must think that this is hilarious."

It served no actual purpose but he wielded the blade for reassurance.

"Not really. I don't share your humor."

Izaya took a step toward Shizuo. He could not remember ever having lost face like this. That hurt the most. Sweaty palms, he almost lost purchase of the handle. Izaya gritted his teeth. He had a pointed remark ready. Instead he zipped up his jacket and pulled up the hood.

"Heiwajima-sama, I'll be charging you for my recently destroyed cell phone."

Shizuo shook his head.

"'-sama', huh. Dunno why I gotta pay for your phone, you tripped on your own but it's fine, I guess. Since I am your employer."

"And a marvelous one at that."

Izaya was not looking forward to climbing down the narrow ladder suspended in empty air. Shizuo scratched his head.

"Kinda funny, you make compliments sound like insults."

Without further ado Shizuo picked him up and flung him over a shoulder before Izaya could even protest. The contact with naked skin disturbed Izaya more than he could account for. Shizuo carried him back to the apartment and offered him some tea. Along with sugar. Izaya lifted an eyebrow.

"You're not supposed to sweeten Japanese green tea."

"I like it with sugar."

Izaya grabbed the cup with both hands. This kind of cheap blend was disgusting even without sugar.

"That's a crime against good taste."

"Don't like it, don't drink it."

Izaya drank it down to the last watery drop, sugar included. As disgusting as it tasted, it steadied him. Izaya became calmer and more aware. He noticed the thin and faded scars on Shizuo's chest. The product of Izaya's blade handiwork. He need only reach out slightly and touch the scars, apartments were so absurdly small. Izaya had fond memories of slashing Shizuo. He wondered how often Shizuo thought about it. No one else had ever managed to accomplish such a feat and Izaya had the comforting feeling that Shizuo had spent many a brooding hour on that account.

"I must be going now."

"'kay. Guess I can't call you now. You're not listed on the phonebook."

"I'll have a brand new third generation cellular phone very soon, rest assured."

"The one I'm paying for?"

"Precisely."

Izaya was already at the threshold and when he opened the door he found himself face to face with Tom.

"Orihara Izaya…-san? Shizuo…?"

Izaya burst out laughing. He could well imagine how compromisingly bizarre the scene was, Izaya in Shizuo's apartment, Shizuo wearing nothing except a pair of pants. Hysteria was a few giggles away.

"Good evening! I'll leave you two alone."

Izaya had a sudden attack of laughter half a block from Shizuo's place and he kept on giggling all the way home.

"That was- that was Izaya? The Izaya?"

Tom was still staring wide-eyed.

"There's only one. Fortunately."

"Never mind that, what was he doing here? Why are you half-naked?"

Shizuo got dressed.

"I'm going out for a bite, you coming?"

Tom joined him for greasy cheeseburgers and strawberry milkshake.

"Is Izaya bullying you again? Just what is wrong with that guy, anyway."

"Dunno. That's what I'm going find out."

Tom adjusted his glasses.

"Shizuo, you should just stay away from that guy. Izaya is a sly bastard."

"Yeah, I know. But I'm getting the hang of it."


As soon as Izaya got home, he got to work. He made a list of the serial numbers on Shizuo's bills. As Izaya thought, there was a bundle of older bills dating from around or before their high school days and a bundle of newer ones. He had decided to follow the trail of money and see where it led. This small fortune was beyond most people's budget, let alone a broke debt collector that struggled to make ends meet. Shizuo had stolen it or borrowed it from a friend or extorted it from some poor soul.

Izaya considered these options. Kasuka was wealthy enough to lend his brother a helping hand. At any rate, the two different types of bills hinted at two donors, be them voluntary or not. According to Shizuo there was more money. The trip to Shizuo's apartment had not been completely disastrous. Izaya now knew for a fact that Shizuo was not living above his means.

Non-serialized numbers made it unlikely that he had robbed a bank but Izaya made a mental note to use his contacts at the Bank of Japan and to check a few loan sharks. Legitimate and underground sources reinforced each other to trace the trail of meaningful paper. Finding out how Shizuo had come into possession of the money was not even cracking half of the mystery. Motivations remained unknown. Izaya stored the bills in the safe.

He had already showered but he now took a bath. Izaya rinsed his skin anew. He still felt the sticky impression of cold sweat. Fear was an emotion he did not handle well. And he was too honest with himself to deny that he was afraid of Heiwajima Shizuo. Not to mention he was terrified of dying.

The warm water and foggy air did not seem to even diffuse the chill deep in his bones. Fear was a conditioned response triggered in case of a dangerous situation, it was inherited without a glitch by the evolutionary tree from the remotest days of self-aware higher primates to modern day homo sapiens- and none of this mattered at all. Rationalizations could not coexist with fear when it hit. It was only later that they were at all possible and by then they were useless. Izaya slid below the surface. His body disconnected from his body as it happened at times when he was in deep thought. Undisturbed.

He preferred decisions forged in the heat of the moment but this kind of quiet reflection had its advantages. Blurred sounds barely reached him. Holding his breath. Izaya had to wonder if Shizuo ever felt fear. If not then he could very well be beyond his reach. For the second time in a very eventful night he remembered cutting Shizuo. Years upon years could pass over that particular scene without any effacing effect on Izaya's memory. He had seen naked surprise in Shizuo at the time. More than the pain he was sure that it had been the shock of being at all wounded that had impacted Shizuo. Which meant that there was hope.

Izaya emerged from the water with a smile. He wrapped himself in a fluffy towel and coolly assessed the many tasks at hand. There might still be much fun to be had.

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